The first round of nominees for the 2008 James Beard Awards have just been announced. Well not really, the judges were sent the "long list" earlier today, and the folks at Grub Street managed to get their grubby little hands on a copy.

The list is the best of the best in the US, and features quite a broad range. The categories are Restaurateur, Best Regional Chef (separate categories for each region), Pastry Chef, Rising Star Chef, Chef, Restaurant, Service, Wine Service, Wine & Spirits Professional, and Best New Restaurant.

It's interesting to me that New York City gets its own category, but since it's such a hot bed of culinary delights, I guess it's only fair to the rest of the Northeast. The lists definitely run the gamut of flavors and styles. There are some obvious names — like Mario Batali, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Wolfgang Puck — but there are some newcomers as well. Here at Sugar HQ, we're excited by the inclusion of several of our new fave eateries (SPQR and Spruce in San Francisco).

If you're curious, check out the entire long list of nominees. It's interesting to note that the cookbooks, newspaper articles, webcasts/radio, and restaurant design are not on this list. Those will surely be announced in the weeks to come, and when they do, we'll definitely let you know!

So, were any of your favorite chefs or restaurants on the long list? Do you feel that your region is well represented?